Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 4

Saturday 2pm
Angel awakened to the sound of loud banging on her cabin door. She struggled to get up from the bathroom floor.

Did I sleep in here all night? Her head was pounding and each step she took was as if she had heavy elephant legs. What is wrong with me? Angel held a hand up to her tepid forehead. I didn’t drink that much, did I?

She finally made it to the door. Opening it, Angel stumbled into the strong arms of Jamaal. His eyes were bloodshot and his face was unshaven. He also had on the same clothes from last night. Angel looked down at herself. Her outfit was the same as well.

What’s going on here? Angel mused, really confused now. Especially since she never wore the same outfit two days in a row.

“Are you okay?” Jamaal asked, cutting into Angel’s thoughts. His deep voice was filled with enormous relief and concern.

Jamaal had already knocked on her door once with no answer. In fact, Angel’s door was the first one Jamaal knocked on when he realized that something was terribly wrong on the ship. Only God knows what made him double back after checking on the others. Maybe it was the fact that Angel was the only person he’d connected with on the whole boat and he desperately wanted, or rather needed to make sure that she was alright. Either way, he was glad that she was alive. How well she was, he didn’t know yet.

Angel nodded. “I guess I’m alright. But my head feels awful. What about you?” She looked up into his compassionate eyes.

“My head feels the same. But I don’t know about the other people on the boat. Nobody else is answering their doors. The phones don’t work. The crew is either gone or de…” Jamaal stopped mid-sentence. He didn’t want to frighten her.

But Angel was already growing anxious. Something was dreadfully wrong here. The ship was too quiet and there was an eerie feeling in the air.

“Are people dead?” She shivered with fear. I hope Montez and the others are okay, Angel mused, thinking that although she was through with Vincent relationship-wise, she certainly didn’t want him dead.

Jamaal nodded. “People are dead. Some are shot. Others seemed to have died from food poisoning. I think we’ve all been poisoned.” Suddenly, he embraced the now trembling woman, holding her close to his pounding chest. “Angel, I’m so glad you’re alive,” Jamaal said with intense emotion, more emotion than he ever intended to display.

Only allowing himself a few short minutes of this, Jamaal quickly reined in his emotions and released Angel. Then he looked down into her troubled green eyes and willed her to rein in hers, too. They both needed clear heads right now.

“Do you think you can make it to the bridge? I want to see if the instruments are still functional.” He’d noticed earlier that the boat seemed to be floating adrift at sea.

Drawing strength from Jamaal’s calm behavior, Angel nodded and left with him. Together they walked hand in hand through the narrow corridors, holding onto each other out of sheer desperation. Their grip would involuntarily tighten when they would encounter a lifeless body in a lounge chair or see someone sprawled in an awkward, motionless position on deck.

Although Jamaal had seen some of the horrors already, it didn’t make the scene any less surreal. The eerie silence that lingered about the white ship now seemed to envelope it like a tight surgical glove. Overhead they could hear sea gulls flying. The water below was smooth like glass, almost too smooth. No land could be seen on either side of the boat.

Still Jamaal and Angel steadily made their way up to the control room. Something inside compelled them to get there even faster now, as if it was the Promised Land or something.

Entering the control room via the eastward door, they saw broken equipment, spliced wires, and large bullet holes in the walls obviously put there by some type of automatic weapon. Upon further exploration, they saw Captain Wilton, dead of a gunshot wound to the chest. Beside him was a black suitcase full of money. Several feet away, another man lay dead next to a black satchel filled with bags of a white powdery substance. Drugs. A semi-automatic gun was in the man’s right hand.

Having reached her breaking point, Angel ran from the room - via the westward door - gagging and gasping for breath. Before she made it back down to the guardrail, she tripped over two more bodies, both male, both dead. The sight them lying there with their unseeing eyes open caused her to heave the rest of her stomach contents out until the hot acid burned in the back of her throat.

Oh, God. This can’t be real. It must be a nightmare, Angel thought, wishing she would wake up soon.

Jamaal followed shortly thereafter and helped her up. Hearing something jingle as she leaned over the white banister, Angel looked over and saw that he had a set of keys in his hand. She quickly turned her head away, knowing that he most likely retrieved them from the captain’s dead body.

“Angel, I know it looks bad, but try to hang in here with me. This was obviously a drug deal gone awry. I guess poisoning all of us was a part of the plan, too. Thank God you and I lived.” Then he held up the keys. “I got these so that we could double check all of the rooms and see if maybe anyone else survived, too. We need all the help we can get now.” Jamaal gently tugged at Angel’s arm to follow him.

God, please help us, he prayed as they found their way back to the cabin area.

One by one Jamaal and Angel unlocked doors, finding no survivors. Even the chef had been killed. He’d been shot once in the neck near one of the serving trays on deck. Surprisingly Vincent’s room was empty.

When they came to Montez and Bobby’s room, Jamaal tried to shield Angel from looking in, but she pushed past him, determined to see if her friends were alive. Inside the cabin she quickly realized what Vincent had meant about ‘getting his freak on’. Montez’s nude body was abominably sandwiched in between the two equally bare men. All three were dead.

For the second time that day, Angel ran to the guardrail. She was gasping for air and feeling sick to her stomach again. This was all just too much. How had all of this happened? Why had all of this happened?

Suddenly her mind raced back to something Kenya had said. This trip had been doomed from the beginning. And Montez hadn’t been the friend that she thought she was.

Kenya was right about everything, Angel mused, now wishing she’d listened to her one true friend.

Jamaal came up behind Angel and just held her while she cried deep heartrending tears. She’d not only lost three people she knew and cared about, she’d been deeply betrayed by them all. Not to forget, she almost lost her own life, too.

Absently stroking Angel’s sandy hair in comfort, Jamaal paid no attention to how delightfully her copper highlights sparkled in the evening sunlight. He was too preoccupied with his own thoughts to notice. Neither of them said anything as they stood holding each other, glad to be alive, grateful that they weren’t alone.

Moments later, Jamaal led Angel to an empty lounge chair to sit down. Still they said nothing. Besides the two of them, everyone else was dead. That much had been confirmed by their thorough search. Even Phoenix, the nice cruise director, lay dead of food poisoning.

I didn’t even see him eating or drinking anything, Angel mused sadly, trying hard to get the lifeless image of him out of her mind. The whole thing was just too overwhelming.

What Angel didn’t know was that Phoenix had been nibbling on the catered crab cakes in the kitchen and the poison in them had interacted with his diabetic medication. She also didn’t know that before Phoenix died he’d made peace with his Maker – Lord and Savior, thereby removing the sting of death and assuring his name a place in the Lamb’s Book of Life. If Angel had known those things, then she’d also know that all was now well with the cruise director’s soul and that there was no need to worry about him.

As he sat there with furrowed brow, looking out over the immense sea, Jamaal’s mind began to switch to survival mode. The first thing he did was carefully assess the situation. We have no idea where we are, our food supply can’t be trusted, and we have no means of contacting anyone, he reasoned.

Fortunately, all of this seemed to cause his military background to arise within him stronger than ever been. Jamaal’s ten-year stint in the army had prepared him well for such a time as this. Besides that, his father had been in the navy for many years and had taught him a few things about boats. Some Jamaal remembered easily, others he would have to really focus hard to recall.

Jamaal got up and sprung into action, talking out loud as he paced to and fro near the lounge chair. “The boat has obviously veered off course. Earlier I noticed that one of the lifeboats was gone, so somebody got away. I don’t know whether it was a good guy or a bad guy though. If it’s a good guy, hopefully he or she will let someone know where the ship is, even if they don’t think that there were any survivors. If it’s a bad guy, well…” Jamaal paused as he turned to a bewildered Angel.

Seeing that she was still in shock, he went over to Angel and touched her arms, rubbing them in hopes of bringing comfort. When Jamaal gazed down into her face, his voice was gentle as he spoke. “I know that all of this is a bit much, but I need you to go the galley…I mean to the kitchen and gather as many canned goods as possible. They’re the only things we can trust to eat right now.”

When Angel hesitated, his voice softened even more. “Don’t worry, there are no bodies in there. I checked earlier,” Jamaal said, believing that giving her a mundane, yet extremely important task to do would go a long way towards helping to calm her nerves down.

With Angel off on her assignment, Jamaal went back up to the control room to see what could be done, if anything. First, he tediously removed each of the four bodies in the room and locked them in the captain’s quarters. Jamaal did that more for his own sanity than anything else. Knowing that the men were dead was one thing, trying to work with the dead men in the same room with him was quite another.

After that, he began the task of trying to reattach most of the wires. Somehow he had to make this boat maneuverable. Blue with blue, green with green. Now I wish I had listened more carefully to my father, Jamaal mused as his hands moved cautiously over the colorful wiring.

Among his many tasks, Jamaal needed to also find some way to communicate to the outside world. He had no idea how long they’d drifted or how far they’d veered off course. The Atlantic Ocean was a big place to get lost in. Who would even know where to start looking for them?

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

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